Treat Her Like A Lady

I remember after our honeymoon, we invited Jaclyn’s parents over to our apartment to show off pictures from our dream vacation in Key West, Florida. Everyone sat on the couch while I displayed the hi-def images on my giant TV.There were a couple nice shots of the beach, hotel, restaurants, and sunsets, there also happened to be numerous images from two chartered fishing trips, including a great photo of me with a tarpon. When the slide show concluded, I turned to the audience with a giant beaming smile and asked, “Well, what do you think?”

My father-in-law said, “I had no idea my daughter liked to fish so much!”

Jaclyn secured a babysitter on Saturday and we did a belated anniversary celebration.

We are going to host a little gathering on my birthday (October 7) to taste spirits from local distilleries, so I asked Jaclyn, do you mind if we use some of our time on this anniversary date to stop at a couple local distilleries to try & buy a couple items for the celebration? Jaclyn was okay with it, but enthusiastic would not be the appropriate adjective to describe how she received the question.

As we were preparing to take off for the night, I told her that the distillery was not in a great part of Pittsburgh, but it shouldn’t be too bad. We drove past The Strip into this purely industrial area and found the distillery with a handmade sign. Not that Jaclyn was asking for a super fancy dinner, but it was clear that this was not how she envisioned her anniversary celebration. I prodded her out of the car and could see her look of disgust, I asked if she could pose with the sign in a sexy manner, she looked like she was going to kill me so I snapped the picture and headed inside. In case you were wondering, the place is called Maggie’s Farm Distillery, the sign says, “The Rum Room”.

Rum Room

The Rum Room was actually much nicer on the inside, but still not The Ritz, or the kind of place that comes top of mind on an anniversary dinner. Most distilleries we’ve visited to date focus more on whiskey, it was nice to visit a place who focused more on rum, noticed a lot more variety in spices, scents, and concoctions. I tried a cider drink and loved it. We walked out with a bottle of spiced rum for the upcoming tasting party.

Afterwards, I took Jaclyn to Church Brew Works for dinner.

Jaclyn expressed discomfort with the altar’s complete dedication to the brewing process, no Jesus, but otherwise, the place was huge and busy and we managed to find a lot to taste and experience. The picture above comes from the internet, the night we visited, it was packed to the gills.

We tried a couple soups, traditional pirogi(s), and salmon and steak. It was a great meal and the beers were tasty.

Church

Above – the sampler at Church

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Above – Mr. Rkdeemreport at Church

I would highly recommend Church, fun an distinctly Pittsburgh place, but still didn’t probably deliver on the perfect anniversary theme (I never knew my daughter liked beer & rum so much!).

I did a little to redeem myself by taking Jaclyn up a winding road along a cliff to the top of Mt. Washington to walk out on a viewing platform and take in the magic and beauty of Pittsburgh (see below):

Skyline

Benny woke me up around 6:30AM on Sunday, we did some grocery shopping and a little yard work, then I went back to the city at noon to pick up a couple more spirits for the party. Wigle Whiskey is where we went, probably the most established distillery in Pittsburgh and close to The Strip which makes getting to it easy.

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Pictures above of Wigle on Sunday afternoon.

I fell asleep around 7:30PM on Sunday (nothing to do with alcohol consumption, I decided to avoid caffeine for the day).

This week I head to Dallas for a couple of days.

Please feel free to stop by in Pittsburgh, we are ready to host quite a tasting!

Hikes, Peppers, Disobedient Spirits

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The weekend started off with a couple neighbors (and their children) hopping over to our home for drinks and dinner. It was an ideal night with the kids keeping each other busy and the adults enjoyed getting to know their neighbors better. Remarkably, the kids kept themselves busy for a couple hours and no disasters or medical emergencies happened. In case you were wondering, Benny (our dog) chose to hang with the kids and slept very well that night.

On Saturday morning, I woke Benny up in the darkness and made the hour drive up to Slipper Rock, Pennsylvania. My goal was to hike the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail, which is about 6 miles each way and covers major changes in elevation. On the way back, we needed to take breaks for Benny and myself, we were also stung by bees. It was a beautiful hike and I found a shorter version along Slippery Rock Creek which the rest of the family would definitely enjoy. (STORY CONTINUES AFTER PICTURES BELOW)

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On Sunday morning, I rallied the family to the Reyna Foods Hatch Pepper Festival. The Hatch Pepper is somewhat famous (so I am told) and comes from Hatch, New Mexico. We went to this festival last year and thought it was a neat experience, I love the music, sights, and tastes, it also draws a strange crowd. We wandered about for a little, went on a hayride, and one of the vendors asked if I wanted to take the Carolina Reaper challenge. Carolina Reapers are the hottest pepper on earth and I once ate a sliver of one about the width and diameter of a penny. This small sliver induced hiccups, sweating, tears, and abdominal pain. The vendor said if I ate one, I would get a free t-shirt and be entered to win a gift basket. I am not one to back down from a challenge, but the benefit was not worth the risk in this case. I asked her if I could just take one bite and she said I had to eat the whole pepper. I chickened out (or made a rationale decision) and declined the invitation…I look back on that decision with remorse. The festival had no ATM and I generally carry little cash, so we decided to move on in the early afternoon. (STORY CONTINUES AFTER PICTURES)

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I then drove my family about an hour east to Homer City, Pennsylvania to visit Disobedient Spirits. Disobedient Spirits is a new distillery that I was excited to try out. There’s not a whole lot going on in Home City other than the distillery, but my kids found a playground, Jaclyn tried out a cocktail everyone got to enjoy something in Homer City. I bought a bottle of vodka and a bottle of moonshine, my collection of locally crafted spirits is coming along nicely. I plan to offer a tasting to friends sometime in October.

One last note, I have purchased two Charbroil grills, both have had ignition switch failures and had to be replaced. Replacing an ignition switch is a pain in the butt and therefore, I recommend that no one buy a Charbroil grill.

Otherwise, life is good, work is great, and Pittsburgh is treating us very, very well!

Spelunking

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Took the family to Laurel Caverns on Saturday. Initially, I tried to muster ups the votes to democratically initiate the trip, but kids and wife were not enthusiastic about the prospects of this subterranean recreational experience. Fortunately, I yield executive power and overruled them and told them to get in the car because we’re heading for the cave…and dress warm because its cold down in that hole (the cave stays at 52 degrees year round).

The cave tour is about an hour and goes 17 stories below ground. If you’re super adventurous and over 12 years old, you can go on a much longer tour that goes beyond the beaten/lighted path and go down 43 stories below ground level. To take that tour, you need to have two sources of light and wear clothing that can rip and covers your entire body because you will have to crawl through some tight spots in the complete darkness. I will definitely do that at some point (let me know if you’re interested).

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The kids and wife had a lot of fun in the caves, if you back in the Fall or Winter, the tour guide said you’ll see tons of bats as they go into the caves to hibernate. On Sunday we went to the zoo for a work related event, the zoo has recently undergone several renovations and is becoming a star attraction in Pittsburgh.

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After the zoo, Jac and I went on a date in Pittsburgh (we got a babysitter) and I took her to the art museum to see an exhibit that I was very excited to see. The Carnegie Museum of Art advertised that they were showcasing all of their Edward Hopper paintings/etchings in a single location for the first time ever, I was very excited because he is my favorite artist and because I was unaware that they had a big collection. We got to the exhibit and I was definitely expecting more, it was just one room with about a 18 pieces and many of them were just etchings. Anyways, it was still fun to get out and about, plus they had one painting that I really liked called Rocky Pedestal.

After touring the “exhibit” for 15 minutes, we went around the Natural Museum of History. We walked down a hall on the third floor which featured about 1,000 dead birds and then came out to a balcony that looked down on a couple of diplodocuses (diplodoci? pictured above). We finished off the date at Mad Mex in Oakland (Pittsburgh, near U of Pitt/Carnegie Mellon) and I ordered the habanero salsa, a jalapeno margarita, and a quesadilla, it was pure heaven.

With all my driving and hiking through the wilds of west virginia, I’ve been getting into John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. It is a guilty pleasure. Toots and the Maytals do an amazing reggae version of it too.

I rented a cabin for mid October in Coudersport, PA. It is supposedly the darkest place on this side of the Mississippi and you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye. The cabin we rented also mentioned that black bear are known to visit, so it should be quite the experience.

Work is heating up, next month should be a brutal amount of activity/presentations/travel/late nights/early mornings/etc.

Here are a couple of my favorite Hopper paintings:

Labor Day Weekend

Conshohocken

The gang got back together for our annual fantasy football draft, held at our friend’s home in Fort Washington, PA. I woke up extra early for the trip across the state because I wanted to allow a little buffer. Fortunately, this “buffer” allowed me to hit up my friend’s brewery, Conshohocken Brewing Company. I arrived around noon on a Saturday and the place was already packed with people cooler than me and many bicyclists/runners who hopped off the trail into brewery for some refreshment. I enjoyed a dark IPA, bought a growler, and took it to the draft.

We all had a great time at the draft, but this was the first year where I didn’t know half the players. At one point, you would have had to pick a really random player like Taiwan Jones to stump me, but now I couldn’t tell you about anyone picked after the sixth round. I must either continue to prioritize other things or consume more football, I wonder which path Jaclyn would recommend?

After the draft, San Diego Dave and I hopped in the car and hit up the legendary Bob & Barbara’s in Philadelphia. We enjoyed cheap PBRs & Jim Bean, complimented by a band who played good whiskey drinking music, and caught up on how much we are still like the people we used to be as kids. Around 1AM, we walked around until we found a pizza joint and it a gloriously bad decision, I ravaged 3 slices of pizza, regretted it the next day! We crashed at the Double Tree on Broad St. in Center City. We woke up at a reasonable time and I dropped Dave back off at his parents house in the morning and dropped in on my parents. They are keeping very busy themselves and could probably maintain a far more entertaining blog than me with all their adventures.

After a brief stop at my parents, I rushed back to Pittsburgh and made it home in time for a neighbor’s cookout. On Monday, I took the family to Coopers Rock in West Virginia, an absolutely stunning park with amazing views and even better trails. The trails were clearly marked, easy to follow, but filled with dark caves, deep holes, and narrow twists that made every next step very exciting.

Coopers Rock State Forest is a great spot for anybody because you essentially park your car at the top and can walk out to the most spectacular view without breaking your sweat. They even have a concession stand to grab a burger or hot dog. If you want adventure, you can start the walk down the trails that take you underneath the cliffs and find caves, holes, and assorted wildlife. Eventually, you make it to a river. We passed people with climbing gear, others looking to explore a cave or two, and others carrying fishing rods, my kind of place! Benny, our black Lab, loved it and is beginning to think he has some Mountain Goat in his DNA.

Cooper Rattlesnake